We polled our OutFront Political Strike Team, our panel of thirty-one independent political journalists and analysts, and asked them whether the controversy over Rep. Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comments will hurt the GOP's chances in November.
The answer? A mostly-resounding "YES."
Carlos Sierra: Yes, but only because Republicans will now lose Missouri, and more importantly a shot at taking the majority in the US Senate. Christmas came early for Senator Claire McCaskill and her consultants. Fortunately for Republicans, polling consistently shows it’s not about abortion; it’s about the economy.
Norman Ornstein: November is a long time away, but the fact that Paul Ryan and Tod Akin were regular partners and co-sponsors of extraordinarily tough and restrictive anti-abortion bills will make it tougher for Republicans to expand their vote beyond the base.
Linda Killian: Yes – The Akin remarks weren't about abortion they were about women who are the victims of rape. But they put on a spotlight on the Republican Party's extreme position on abortion. The Republican platform language approved Tuesday calls for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion with no exceptions for cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. A majority of Americans, including most Independent/Swing voters, think abortion is a personal decision in which government has no role. Pew Research Center polling has shown almost 60 percent of Independents think abortion should be legal in all cases. But recent Pew polling also shows that for a majority of voters abortion is one of the least important issues, far behind jobs, the economy, and the deficit. Even Mitt Romney disagrees with his own party's platform. His position on abortion has shifted over the years but as recently as Sunday his campaign said Romney does not oppose abortion in cases of rape.
Omar H Ali: No. Other issues will surely come up between now and November that the Democratic and Republican parties will use to beat up on each other–that is, to hurt each other's campaigns. While this kind of politics (demonizing the "other") may serve one or the other major party to fire up their base in the short-term (and should not be confused with an effort to "talk about the issues"), it's surely neither good for the country nor democracy. Why? Because it creates greater divisions. Women's healthcare and the right to choose, like so many other issues, are of import to ALL Americans. However, having meaningful and more nuanced conversations about such substantive issues is virtually impossible under present bipartisan conditions–that is, both the structure and culture of our limited electoral system. It's no wonder that a plurality of voters (the 42% of Americans who self-identify as independent) are rejecting partisan affiliation. In doing so they are also rejecting divisive (partisan-driven) politicking.
Taegan Goddard: Yes, a debate over abortion is exactly what the Democrats wanted and needed. Todd Akin has become the Republican poster boy for policies the vast majority of Americans find reprehensible such as banning abortion in cases of rape.
David Gergen: It has already hurt some and will hurt a lot more if Akin selfishly stays in race.
LZ Granderson: Yes. Had Akin bowed out of the race, there was a slight chance this could have disappeared by the end of the month. Now, this will be a question on the trail and worse yet, for all of the debates. No way Romney, Ryan or the GOP leadership want the flip-flops and no exception viewpoint repeated over and over again just before the election. But thanks to Akin, that's what going to happen
Scott Wong: Yes, clearly you wouldn't hear Republicans - both moderates and those on the far right - calling on Akin to step aside unless they thought this issue would inflict political damage to the GOP in November. It plays right into Democrats' talking points that Republicans are waging a "war on women."
Ruben Navarrette: No. Akin doesn't speak for all Republicans. And the fact that so many Republicans have condemned his remarks and asked him to withdraw helps drive that point home to voters. Besides, even in Missouri, voters aren't likely to base their decision about who to vote for on some brainless comment by a politician as much as on who they think will provide better leadership.
Andrew Serwer: Yes it will. Serves as an inconvenient reminder of radical elements in the party.
Lisa Borders: Yes – Many of the current Republican congress members are completely out of step with majority of the electorate, wincing from the pain of their "social issue Achilles heel". The clear evidence is the gender gap in the Presidential election. Mr. Akin inserted BOTH feet into his mouth (Did he really say that with his outside voice?!). Unfortunately for the Romney/Ryan ticket, the disconnect between the ideology of 'small government' and the reality of their policies invading women's bodies and lives – ultrasound/transvaginal probe requirements; redefining life; qualifying rape – is patently obvious to the most casual of observers. If women weren't paying attention, they are now...oops!
Paul Steinhauser: YES. The GOP ticket, and congressional Republicans, want this election to focus on the economy, and the job President Obama’s done on the economy, and the choice between Republican proposals to fix the economy and health care versus Democratic proposals. The GOP does not want social issues to jump in importance in the minds of American voters. That’s not a fight they want to emphasize.
David Walker: It could, if individual candidates do not distance themselves from Akin's remarks and state their own positions. Akin should step aside since his remarks were beyond reason. This election should not; however, be decided based on social issues.
Dante Chinni: Yes, in two ways. First, it distracts from the economy. Second, it hurts Romney with moderate suburban women by reminding the of the issue - and it doesn't help that Ryan is opposed to abortion even in cases of what he calls "forcible rape."
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Erin Burnett OutFront airs weeknights at 7 p.m. ET. Designed to showcase Erin's unique style--casual, smart, and confident--OutFront stays ahead of the headlines, delivering a show that's in-depth and informative.
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